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In late-February, representatives from Football Supporters Europe (FSE) visited Baku, Azerbaijan, to assess the city’s preparations for this season’s UEFA Europa League Final, which will take place in the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday 29th May (23:00 local time). 


Based on observations made during the visit, FSE identified several concerns regarding potential hosting conditions, including the human rights situation, ticket allocation, and the visa application process.

The latter was of particular concern because it entailed mandatory disclosure of an individual’s HIV status. FSE believes that this violates the right to equal protection under the law and the United Nations General Assembly’s Political Declaration on HIV and Aids.

FSE communicated these reservations to UEFA. They considered them serious enough to pass on to the Azerbaijani authorities, who acted accordingly.

To this end, on 9th April, the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree removing the HIV declaration from the e-visa application process. We must stress, however, that the declaration has only been removed from official channels—some third parties still include the question on their websites. As such, we advise that fans travelling to Azerbaijan for the final use official channels to apply for a visa.

FSE commends UEFA for its swift action, and we are satisfied that all travellers will be able to enter the country regardless of their health status.

While we still have concerns about other aspects of the fixture which we will continue to lobby on, we note that meaningful cooperation between fans, human rights organisations, governing bodies, and national authorities can lead to a positive outcome.

It is therefore vital that, going forward, all stakeholders continue to work together. They should do so around an internationally recognised framework of norms. In the end, this is the only way to ensure that major sporting events such as the Europa League, Champions League, and UEFA EURO 2020 live up to the high standards that we have all come to expect.

Along with our partners at the Sports Rights Alliance (SRA), FSE will continue to promote the human rights agenda in football and sport, as well as the safety and well-being of those most likely to be affected by any potential human rights abuses.  

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Registration for the 10th FSE European Football Fans Congress is now open.

EFFC19 will be hosted in Lisbon from Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th July by Associação Portuguesa de Defesa do Adepto (APDA), a national organisation that is currently protesting a new law that targets football supporters.

Jueves, 28 Marzo 2019

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Dear Mr Infantino

We are writing as a global group of non-governmental organisations, trade unions, players’ unions and fans groups working to defend and promote human rights and transparency in sport, in relation to the forthcoming FIFA Council Meeting on 14-15 March where proposals to expand the 2022 World Cup will be discussed.

Martes, 12 Marzo 2019

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Earlier this month, representatives from Football Supporters Europe (FSE) visited Baku (Azerbaijan), where this season’s UEFA Europa League (UEL) final will be held. The purpose of the visit was to assess the city’s preparations for the fixture, with a specific focus on the Olympic Stadium. In addition to the usual meetings with UEFA representatives and Azerbaijani officials, FSE also consulted local supporters’ groups, human rights activists, and journalists.

The final will take place on Wednesday 29th May at 23:00 (local time).


While Baku has a lot to offer visitors, the 2019 UEL Final will take place in a challenging environment, and FSE have concerns that we hope will be addressed in the coming months.

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

According to Human Rights Watch’s 2019 World Report, the human rights situation is critical. In the context of the UEL Final, this is problematic on two levels. First, it limits the ability of outside organisations to access accurate information on the state of the preparations and the political dimension of the event. Second, it has the potential to dampen the festive atmosphere one expects from a major sporting event and undermine its inclusivity.

Azerbaijan also has a poor record when it comes to LGBT+ rights, with the ILGA-Rainbow Index ranking it as the worst state in Europe for gay and trans citizens. This is particularly worrying given the growing number of LGBT+ fan groups who are likely to follow their team all the way to the final.

FSE have received assurances from UEFA that they are committed to organising the final in line with the United Nations’ ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ and other relevant conventions. UEFA also stated that they would liaise with local authorities to ensure members of the LGBT+ community feel safe and welcome during their stay in Azerbaijan. FSE are monitoring the situation carefully and will update LGBT+ fan groups in due course.

FANS’ RIGHTS

Football supporters in Azerbaijan are also regularly targeted by the authorities. Minor offences can often lead to a period of administrative detention ranging up to eight weeks. This repressive atmosphere is compounded by a heavy police presence, which is immediately noticeable to an outside observer. It is important to note, however, that there is a limited risk of arrest or imprisonment for foreign fans. The probable outcome in the case of a minor offence will be deportation.

VISA REQUIREMENTS

Citizens of most countries from the UEFA region will need to apply for a visa before their arrival in Azerbaijan. Applications have to be made online and cost 20 USD – or up to 50 USD for expedited processing (3 hours). FSE would advise travelling fans to apply at least 10 days before their planned date of departure.

Worryingly, the visa application process requires mandatory disclosure of a person’s HIV status. While it is unclear whether the application can be denied on this basis, FSE believe it violates the right to equal protection under the law. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly issued a Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS which specifically encouraged member states to remove any existing HIV-related travel restrictions.t2 18 - 20328 Hamburg, Germany

Following an inquiry from FSE, UEFA informed us that they are liaising with the Azerbaijani authorities toensure that anyone wishing to attend the final or UEFA EURO 2020 matches can do so irrespective of theirhealth status. FSE welcome UEFA’s immediate response and efforts on this subject but remain adamantthat only full removal of the restrictions would be a positive outcome.

UEFA TICKETING POLICY

Finally, the announcement on ticketing policy for the final raises questions related to both the finalists’ allocation and the specific Azerbaijani context. With 37,500 tickets available to the general public, which represents an all-time record of 58% of the overall capacity, FSE fear that the number of tickets reserved for supporters of the two finalists will be exceptionally low. FSE representative Martin Endemann commented: “While we acknowledge that visiting Baku will require time and money, fans will travel no matter what. UEFA should take into consideration that it is the supporters of the finalists who are the most likely to travel to Azerbaijan, not the general public.”

Access to the country is indeed limited to three international airports (Baku, Gandja and Qabala), which are mostly connected to Russia and Turkey. “Taking into consideration the high percentage of tickets madeavailable for the general public and the difficulties to travel to Baku, it is FSE’s understanding that theorganisers are relying on the local fans to fill the stadium”, Endemann added. This could prove difficult considering the ticket prices, which may be perfectly affordable for most traveling fans, but will likely be beyond the means of most local football lovers. Indeed, tickets start at 30 EUR in a city where the average monthly salary is 220EUR and the nationwide minimum salary is 70 EUR. In a country which often resorts to mobilising civil servants or forcing other groups to attend public events, this ticketing policy carries the risk of serious abuse. FSE is particularly worried about forced ticket sales, a phenomenon alleged to have occurred during the 2012 Eurovision song contest and the 2016 New Year’s Eve concert at the Olympic Stadium.

In light of these challenges, FSE expect the Azerbaijani authorities to guarantee the safety and basic civil rights of all fans attending the final. Moreover, FSE hope that the UEL Final will draw attention to the difficulties outlined above.

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Image: 'Flame Towers of Baku' by wilth (Flickr)

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Image: 'Flame Towers of Baku' by wilth (Flickr)

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In the coming weeks, football fans from various clubs will protest UEFAs outdated ban on standing at European games under the slogan ‘EUROPE WANTS TO STAND’. The protests will begin with the Champions League tie between Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspurs on 5th March, 2019. In addition to banners in the stands, the organisers have written an open letter to UEFA explaining their stance. The letter has been signed by a broad alliance of European fan organisations.

Jueves, 28 Febrero 2019
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In early February, representatives from Football Supporters Europe (FSE), Spanish supporters’ group Federacion de Accionistas y Socios del Futbol Espanol (FASFE), and SD Europe visited Bilbao.

Jueves, 28 Febrero 2019

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Over the weekend of 15th-17th February, the FSE Committee convened in Amsterdam to discuss issues affecting football fans across the continent. The meeting took place in the Johan Cruijff Arena, thanks to the hospitality of Supportersvereniging Ajax, one of our longest standing members.

Miércoles, 27 Febrero 2019

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After watching their team lose 1-0 to FC BATE Borisov in Belarus last week, Arsenal fans are now faced with the prospect of a 5:55pm kick-off for the return leg at the Emirates (London).

Such an early start means that many fans will find it difficult, if not impossible, to attend the game due to work and other commitments. This is, of course, a problem in and of itself, but it is compounded by the fact that season ticket holders have already been charged for the fixture.

Jueves, 21 Febrero 2019

Leer más...Football Supporters Europe (FSE) have chosen Jim Chisem to succeed Philipp Markhardt as the organisation’s Communications and Research Officer.

Jim, who previously worked as an editor for a leading academic publisher, has been deeply involved in the world of English fan activism over the past three years. He is the co-chair of the Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association (HTSA), organiser of the Stand Up For Town campaign, founder of Fans for Foodbanks, and a member of the West Yorkshire Police Football Supporters’ Independent Advisory Group. His writing has been published by the BBC, Reuters, and The Times.

Viernes, 01 Febrero 2019

Leer más...We are pleased to announce that the 10th FSE European Football Fans Congress (#EFFC19) will be held in Lisbon from Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th July, 2019.

The EFFC takes place every other year and is the biggest gathering of active football supporters on the continent. More importantly, it is the only event where supporters can directly engage with the decisionmakers and major stakeholders of international football.

Viernes, 18 Enero 2019

Leer más...On January 23rd, 2006, the French Parliament passed a comprehensive anti-terror bill which included an amendment specifically aimed at football supporters.

Article 31 of the bill gave prefectures the power to issue administrative stadium bans. The ostensible purpose of these interdictions administratives de stade (IAS) was to provide local authorities with the ability to combat hooliganism without waiting for the judgement of a court.

Martes, 15 Enero 2019

Contactos

Football Supporters Europe eV

Koordinationsbüro

Postfach 30 62 18
20328 Hamburg
Germany

Tel.: +49 40 370 877 51
Fax: +49 40 370 877 50
Email: info@fanseurope.org

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